Last August, I started changing the structure of my life very deliberately. The returns are net positive and in a sense pleasant, but it also fucked me up real bad. I don’t think I’m doing a good job handling the complexity of my new, more interesting life. All these covert bugs are creeping in, and the only debugging mantra I have is “everything is a blogpost idea”.
Writing feels like an unproductive (rather, semi-productive) indulgence to one part of my brain. It screams “Idiot, you should be doing all those other things! ” If I want to practice thinking clearly, then why do I feel guilty about writing? This extends to other areas too. If I want to be fit, then why do I feel guilty about working out? If I want to stimulate my head, then why do I feel guilty about reading?
I touched on this a little bit in an older post, reminding myself that I’m getting too caught up in self maintenance and that I might be living off the future. That said, I do suspect that the brain’s not all that honest about that guilt. I get where the thoughts are coming from. “Exercising makes you tired and you can’t pull a nighter after that. Writing something honest takes half a day. Talking to people takes a lot longer than you plan. All this time could be spent working. Therefore, I’m going to guilt shame until you stop doing these things.”
All of life would be much better if I have confidence in my plan, and for that, the planning has to be done well. The same brain that guilt trips me in the gym doesn’t help me think when I want it to. It won’t shut up when I want to rest. That’s probably why I like exercise so much- I have the permission to exist in a no-brain state throughout the period. Not that the brain shuts up, but yeah, the permission helps. I wish I were able to operate in different “modes”, and feel good about what I’m doing in the moment.
I’ve been trying to extend the model I used for fitness to every other area without fully realizing it. The algorithm for getting in shape looked something like this- don’t kill the streak, do something everyday, find the community and eventually it’ll catch on. A good friend (who predicts my behavior with surprising accuracy) pointed out that this might now be a good idea. I disagree, but she gave me a useful warning. Knowledge work is inherently different from fitness and I’ll probably need to get more tactile about programming. I’m riding the learning curve really slow.
First strategy is to get plenty code reviews. The following is an excerpt from Tobi Lutke, “Most days I came to work and found a printout of the code I wrote the day before annotated with red marker everywhere. I used poor idioms or could have chosen better abstractions or done a better job hinting at the architecture of the overall system. This taught me not to tangle my ego up in the code I write. There are always ways to improve it and getting this feedback is a gift.” And I need drills, I need to be training the mind to sit there and solve problems. I’m willing to use some willpower to push through for now, but I’m totally hoping that things run on flow state later.
All that aside, would I do it if it didn’t pay? Depends on what I’m working on. Find interesting things to work on.